Thai Government Uses Fake News Law To Lock Up Opposing Party Leaders

from the securing-a-nation-from-the-threat-of-free-and-open-elections dept

Thailand's government continues to make life miserable for its citizens. Pretending mass censorship and broken encryption are just the price citizens have to pay for a "secure" nation, the government has turned the internet into a minefield for critics and political opponents. This is all on top of a lese majeste law that criminalizes badmouthing the king, which would be horrible enough on its own.

Thanks to the leader of the free world, the term "fake news" is now being deployed to put people in real jails for sharing content of dubious origin or not in alignment with the official narrative. Shutting down criticism by deploying anti-fake news laws is a horrendous abuse of government power. But even legitimate uses of these laws are still troubling. Should the sharing of actually fake news be a criminal offense? The Thai government says yes.

A spokeswoman for the Future Forward party said on Tuesday that a representative of the ruling military junta had filed a police complaint accusing Pongsakorn Rodchompoo of violating the Computer Crime Act, which carries a penalty of up to five years in jail.

Pongsakorn has admitted sharing an article that accused a top junta official of buying cups of coffee for 12,000 baht ($377) each, but says he deleted the post within minutes after learning it originated from a website promoting fake news, Future Forward spokeswoman Pannika Wanich said.

Five other people were also arrested for sharing the fake story, but it's definitely a boon for the government in power when the law takes out a political opponent. Literally unbelievable, the government says the fake story -- which detailed government overspending that didn't actually happen -- posed a "threat to national security." Conveniently, the charges target the leaders of a political party current challenging recent election results.

If fake news is the new speech-damaging dodge, "national security" is the trusty standby -- one that's been used to increase censorship and surveillance all over the world, not just in nations run by hypersensitive authoritarians. The Thai government may be saying stuff about fake news and national security, but the real motivation is keeping its opponents quiet. Charges have also been filed against Future Forward party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit for "putting false information online." The Guardian notes that Thanathorn is a "particularly articulate" critic of the Thai government and military.

And, because all of these new laws just aren't enough to keep every critic silent, the nation's criminal defamation law is still being used in particularly petty ways.

Thailand’s army chief, General Apirat Kongsompong, has ordered officials to file defamation charges against a former police chief who is running for prime minister after he made remarks regarding the many decorations on the general’s uniform...

Presumably, keeping the general's chest free from criticism will result in a more secure nation -- one run by some of the most insecure people in the country.

Filed Under: fake news, free speech, oppression, politics, thailand


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  • icon
    K`Tetch (profile), 14 Mar 2019 @ 1:52pm

    I remember hearing a few weeks ago from the BBC that the kings daughter running that it was "because the king is so adored and respected"
    bollocks.
    If that lay SOB and his corrupt Junta were respected, they wouldn't need the lese majeste law, or criminalized fake news stuff, because they wouldn't be such insecure cowards.

    Petty tyrants with insecurities have lese majeste laws. the Thai king (the cowardly lion) can join Trump the scarecrow and a Whinny-the-pooh-shaped tin man in fear of criticism.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Mar 2019 @ 1:54pm

    "Should the sharing of actually fake news be a criminal offense? The Thai government says yes. "

    I suppose no more Santa Claus then.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Mar 2019 @ 2:06pm

    "Leader of the Free World"

    Why is it that the President of the United States, the country with the world's highest per-capita incarceration rate, the country that keeps reaching out to overthrow democratically-elected governments and install and/or support totalitarian regimes, a country (and a leader) who most of the rest of the democratic countries in the world hold in open contempt, gets to be referred to as the "Leader of the Free World?"

    Is this just a throwback to the Cold War?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Baron von Robber, 14 Mar 2019 @ 2:14pm

      Re: "Leader of the Free World"

      Better than that, like any dictator, he's threatening his own people...not Tialand, btw.

      "Trump suggests that it could get 'very bad' if military, police, biker supporters play 'tough'"
      https://thehill.com/homenews/administration/434110-trump-suggests-that-things-could-ge t-very-bad-if-military-police

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 14 Mar 2019 @ 6:43pm

      Re: "Leader of the Free World"

      I am in a country that could be referred to as being "free", and Trump - or any POTUS - is not my leader. It shows the pure arrogance of some people to claim otherwise.

      If the US / POTUS wants to be called a leader again, it should start acting like one.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 14 Mar 2019 @ 10:12pm

        Re: Re: "Leader of the Free World"

        I believe a duly elected POTUS. Losing the popular vote doesn't change that since we deliberately overweight the influence of smaller states by making the electoral college winner-take-all for each state.

        If you don't like Trump, there are over a dozen Democrats willing to take him on in 2020.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Bergman (profile), 18 Mar 2019 @ 8:47am

    Lese Majestie

    "This is all on top of a lese majeste law that criminalizes badmouthing the king, which would be horrible enough on its own."

    Well, he can't be a very good king if his government is doing this sort of thing on his watch.

    (a mild insult, but still an illegal one under Thai law)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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